I don’t know how long I’ve chased false idols. But it’s been somewhere around 60 years now.
The latest and (hopefully) assault from the Idol of Youth came as I approached my 70th birthday this year. Twenty pounds heavier than last year, recovering from an injury sustained playing pickleball, I decided, “I’ve got to whip myself into shape! Dammit, I’m not hitting 70 like this!”
Plans for weight loss, appointments with physical therapists, resolutions not to touch a drop of alcohol and an absolute ban on sugar wafted through my mind. By God I would take 70 by storm! Maybe even get some electro-acupuncture done on the sagging skin of my neck.
None of that happened. And I’m so very grateful it didn’t.
Instead of getting back into my normal “Attack the body! No pain no gain” mindset, I broke through decades of programming that said “Age is ugly. A thick waistline is ugly. Sagging skin is ugly. None of it can or should be allowed. Hail the almighty IDOL of youth forever!” … saw it for what it is—a fantasy and a burdensome, judgmental habit—and let it all go.
Instead, I decided to love myself as I am. I decided to be kind to myself. I looked the false idol of youth in the face and thought, “Youth is great when you’re young. But trying to hold onto an image that belongs to the past is self-hating and destructive.”
Oh, I’m not saying I won’t lose those 20 pounds. But I’ll do it with grace and gentleness. Instead of driving myself to do 100 laps in the pool every day, maybe I’ll buy some water aerobic equipment and bounce around in the water and play instead. I’ll have a drink if I want it and won’t if I don’t. I’ll cut back on portions and only dip into the sugar bowl on occasion. And I’ll spend the money for electroacupuncture on something else or not at all.
I’ll follow what feels right inside.
OMG!! — the years I’ve spent bowing to external idols—trying to look a certain way. Act a certain way. Make a certain amount of money. Attain a certain amount of success and fame. … and that’s just the material side of the human game. I’ve bowed to too many spiritual idols as well.
Kill the ego! Become enlightened! Attain the Higher Self! Find the Now! Meditate a zillion hours! Have another peak experience! Go to another retreat! Another seminar. Another workshop. Read another book. Go! Go! Go!
Not being okay as I am because I don’t know what I really am is fucking exhausting.
And yet … there comes a time when the journey ends. When the seeking stops. Not from exhaustion and disillusionment—although that can happen too. But rather from stumbling into the realization that there is no place to go and nothing to do and nothing to become in the first place. Just like all the damn gurus and avatars always said.
It’s like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. She was always home. Home was always where she belonged because home was the only real place of peace and joy, love and satisfaction. But it wasn’t until she left home and wandered through the land of Oz, looking for something more, that she could realize it.
You have to leave home to know home. And when you are home you realize you never left.
Ya gotta love it.